10 January 2021

Thoughts on the legacy of 2020

I think everyone agrees that 2020 was a remarkable year. And it is possible that its influence will be felt for a long time. On the other hand, it is possible that as soon as everyone has been vaccinated, we all go back to what things were like before. I suppose we will have to wait and see!

I personally think some things will change. One thing that I think is here to stay is working at home. Some people don't like it at all, but some people really take to it. And a lot of employers have previously been very resistant to the idea. Mine included! But if you have just demanded from your employees that they work at home for about a year, you can't maintain your resistance. I think that from now on, people who want to work at home at least some of the time will just be able to do that. Me included! And I also think that quite some companies will take the opportunity to reduce the amount of real estate today own. If fewer people work in an office, you don't need that much expensive office space! I wonder if the University will do something like that too.

I wonder if people will also change the way they greet each other. I could imagine that people are reluctant to hug and kiss, and stay that way for so long the new habits will have formed before the pandemic is over. We'll have to see!

University education is also likely to never be the same again. Our management had been encouraging us for years to modernise our teaching, but we are always chronically overworked and we never got around to it. But now we suddenly had to! I don't think this will really be the end of the classical lecture ("the sage on the stage") but it sure will be a rare kind of event. And I personally really like uploading my recorded lectures, and then seeing the students for some discussion session of sorts. And I not the only one!

I also think that the flight to the countryside might not be reversed. If working at home becomes more normal, people can live further away from the office, because they don't have to go there that often. The newspapers were full of articles about people fleeing the big cities and trying to buy property in nearby villages. And a friend of mine, who lives in a tiny village some 20 miles up the road from here, said that all the houses that had been for sale in that village had got snapped up in no time at the beginning of the pandemic. Yes it is possible that some people who move to the countryside end up missing the cultural life in the city, and then want to go back, but I think it is more plausible they'll stay!

To be honest, this pandemic has made my choice of house even better. When I first saw it on Rightmove, I disregarded it as I thought it was too big. I later decided that people didn't come up with the slogan "location, location, location" for nothing, and that I was never going to find a house that was that cool in such a perfect location. And then I ended up working at home for a year! That extra bedroom, which became my office, sure came in handy. And when I thought I was going to lose my job, I figured I didn't really have a reason to live this close to the cycle path any more, but then I didn't end up losing my job, and I expect to be commuting again before this year is over. So then the house is perfect again! But I think I am digressing. But if I ever want to sell this house, I think I will manage, as I have tried and tested it, and it is a perfect pandemic house.

At the moment, it so happens everyone is more preoccupied with what 2021 is already throwing at us; this might be an even weirder year than 2020! But then I suppose they might go down in history as a really weird two-year period. I might have to write another post like this in 12 months' time…

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